Boot Hill Cemeteries were common names for the cemeteries of the wild west. They garnished their name from the gunfighters and other rough and tumble men who died with their boots on. Usually it was due to a violent death like gun fights or hanging. One of the most popular of the bunch was located in Tombstone, Arizona. It was formerly referred to as the Tombstone Cemetery but quickly gained notoriety for its famous wild west deaths.
The town’s first pioneers settled the area now known as Tombstone in 1878. The town was a model of the popular roaring mining towns of the west in the 1880s. Many people were buried in the cemetery over the town’s early history. Many were outlaws who were usually laid near their victims. Others died from suicides, hangings, disease, drowning, mining accidents, animal mauling, or wagon accidents.
Three names in this cemetery are well known to historians and western lovers the world over. Billy Clanton, Frank McLaury, and Tom McLaury, were three famous figures of the 1881 gun fight at the OK Corral. The gun fight was a thirty second shoot out between the law and an outlaw group. It is usually regarded as the most famous shoot out of the wild west. The law men were the infamous Virgil Earp, Morgan Earp, Wyatt Earp, and Doc Holliday. The fight stemmed from the outlaw group’s outrage at law interference in their illegal activities.
Over three hundred people are interned at Arizona’s Boot Hill Cemetery. Only about two hundred graves are recorded, however. Unfortunately, many people were buried without record and records that could be recovered were illegible or missing. Additionally, due to the neglect and theft of the cemetery over the years, the wooden relics left behind as record of placement were broken or stolen as souvenirs, further complicating record keeping.
Arizona’s Boot Hill Cemetery was closed in 1886 and a new city cemetery was erected. Boot Hill then began being referred to as the old city cemetery. It was neglected over the years and there were only a few nameless outlaws buried there after that time. Most were hanged and one was shot, likely from a gun fight or brawl. The cemetery mostly was forgotten as time dragged on.
Despite the fact that the cemetery laid mostly neglected and falling into ruins, historians and visitors interested in the town’s wild west past, visit it regularly. Though it is much harder to identify whose bodies lay where, there are some portions of the cemetery that make their presence known. Billy Clanton is reported often rising from the depths of his grave and heading into town. Many have also seen his return to his earthly home.
Many people speculate that the wild west gunman and outlaws are bound to walk the earth for eternity due to their heinous crimes. Many people report seeing ghostly figures and apparitions appearing in photos, only after they’ve had time to return home and view them. Nothing was noted at the time of the photo. Others report seeing apparitions, hearing voices, feelings of being pushed or touched, and seeing lights, only to find no source upon further inspection.